April 29th, 1778. Friday last an express arrived to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, with the alarming intelligence that an American privateer had appeared off the coast of Kirkcudbright, and that the crew had landed and proceeded to Lord Selkirk's house, which they pillaged. The following is a letter from one of the Magistrates of Kirkcudbright to the Provost of Dumfries, which was brought by the above express:- Kirkcudbright, April 23, at twelve o'clock noon, - This morning, about ten o'clock, an American privateer, thought to be about twenty guns, appeared on this bay, and have plundered the house of St. Mary's Isle, the seat of the Earl of Selkirk, within a mile of Kirkcudbright, of all the silver plate, etc. We expect a visit from them on return of the tide, as they still hover in our bay. We are not in a state of defence, nor do we believe anything effectual can be done unless some of the King's ships had notice of them. If you had any troops we should be much the better of them; but I suppose all our injury will be over before you can assist us. Give notice to any person you think in danger. The vessel is three-masted, or ship-rigged I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant, JOHN MURDOCH
You will have heard before this reaches you that the crew of an American privateer landed at St. Mary's Isle, the seat of Lord Selkirk. The following are the particulars of that affair :-Between thirty and forty men landed from the privateer yesterday at ten o'clock, and gave out that they were a pressgang, upon which the country people fled. Three men entered Lord Selkirk's house with fixed bayonets, and pistols by their side, whilst the rest surrounded the house. They asked for Lord Selkirk, but upon being told he was not at home they desired to see the Countess. When she appeared they informed her that they must have all the plate, which her ladyship told them, with composure, should be given them, and accordingly ordered it to be delivered up, with which they went off without asking for jewels, watches or anything else. They said, if the Earl had been at home they would have taken him with them, and given them a sea voyage. They said there were other two vessels upon the coast; that they had been at Whitehaven, and set fire to some ships, but did not do the damage they intended. The ship appeared to be about twenty guns and 150 men, and the crew consisted of English, Scots, Americans, French, and smugglers, who were acquainted with the country; one of those who landed is said to have lately been a waiter at a tavern in Kirkcudbright. The three ships were fitted out in France. Our country is at present in a defenceless state, for which we have to thank the wisdom of the Legislature who refused to put us on the same footing with England, by allowing us a militia, and if any our country gentlemen should be carried off as hostages, they will have to thank themselves for totally disarming the country by their wise acts for the preservation of the game, which are so very congenial to the natural rights of mankind.
Last revised: 16th December 2010